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Air Serbia to launch twenty to thirty routes in 2023

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Air Serbia’s CEO Jiri Marek has said he does not plan to stick to a single number in terms of network growth this year with the carrier to add between twenty and thirty new destinations in 2023. The airline has so far announced twenty, with another two to be unveiled shortly. “We are not disclosing those two because we don’t want to put on sale routes that do not have slots confirmed. Those two will be on slot constrained airports and, at the moment, half of the slots have been secured but some of them not. We hope to finalise those in the next one to two weeks because the slot return deadline has already passed. Some airlines are returning the slots, while some are still keeping them even though we have indication that they will not operate, so, we believe that within the next two weeks we will be in a position to announce those two routes”, Mr Marek said last Thursday at the New Air Gateway to Europe conference. All destinations launched as part of the carrier’s expansion last summer will run this year as well, including Trieste, which was suspended over the winter but is to be scheduled soon.
Detailing the strategy behind its aggressive growth, Mr Marek said, “We proved in 2022 that growth was the right choice. We made it and it brought us back to profitability. We are making all the right steps this year in order to make it work and we will do it again next year. We learned during Covid that leisure and diaspora-driven routes were the least affected and the one which came back really quickly. That was the main pillar of our expansion in 2022 and the majority of our routes were leisure and diaspora and they stayed over the winter. Our expansion this year is driven by the same factors and, on top of that, we are increasing connectivity, that is, densifying the existing network. I think the magical formula is the fast reaction. Everything is now happening last minute, so the faster you can react, the more benefit and opportunities you can unlock for yourself”.
The CEO said legacy carriers are adopting a low cost carrier mindset in terms of network growth in existing market conditions. “Covid changed everything, and legacy carriers began thinking similar to LCCs [low cost carriers]. Any kind of long-term planning you were making before Covid, for example the golden rule that long haul routes should be profitable in three years, these days are gone. Especially now, the booking window is so short that still 80% of booking are happening ten days to departure. So, you have to react really quickly on the market. For example, when we decided to launch Tianjin in December, the route was sold out for the next couple of weeks within two days and we are now flying full. So, we don’t have to wait another two to three years to become profitable and we will be seeking out more and more for these kind of opportunities in the future”, Mr Marek said. He added, “One of the benefits of the success in our strategy is that we are very flexible. We are not sticking to the IATA winter season or the IATA summer season anymore. Whenever we see an opportunity, we go after it”.
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